Jul. 1st, 2019

The Most Impactful Cards in the Past Year

Competitive EdgeOpinion Pieces
The Most Impactful Cards in the Past Year

As we’re starting the week before a Banned and Restricted announcement, I thought it best to run through a history of the past year through the lens of cards that made huge impact this past year. Before we get started, a few things to outline. The cards chosen didn’t have to necessarily be printed in the past year, and more so have increased relevance. Though, there certainly are some new cards in the list. Also, this is covering all formats, so cards that have seen play across multiple environments definitely have the edge here. Let’s dive right in!

Deathrite Shaman

Okay, okay, this one is kind of cheating right from the get-go, but it got banned in Legacy on July 2nd last year, which means it technically saw some play within the last 12 months. This credit goes entirely to its lack of presence though, as this marks of full year of Legacy without . I believe the overwhelming sentiment is that Legacy is, and has been for many months now, in a great place. Rather than a stagnant pool of 4-color nonsense that Deathrite was almost entirely responsible for, Legacy has turned into a far more diverse and balance format, with some 4c nonsense still around. The format has seen a ton of changes this last year (largely due to other cards on this list) and those changes would have likely been otherwise oppressed if they were still under the Golgari boot of this 1/2.

Arclight Phoenix

A personal favorite of mine. was the most sleeper hit of Guilds of Ravnica from this past fall. People thought it would be a fun meme of a card. But after a few weeks of playtesting the card in an Izzet shell with lots of cantrips, people realized that the card was pretty damn good. Good enough for a playset in Standard. And then, good enough for a playset in Modern. And then, yet again, good enough to mess around with in Legacy. When a card sees play in multiple non-rotating formats while it's still in Standard, you know it's good. When it does so by basically creating a brand new archetype, and that archetype is at least somewhat similar across all those formats, you know it's really, really good. That kind of thing doesn't happen often. I think the popularity of the card is certainly only added to by the fact that it's a pretty unique effect. I know that I toyed around with it in Legacy for that reason, and it might be one of the reasons it saw some initial play in the format. But on top of that, the card is just really good when it pans out. Izzet Phoenix was probably the most pervasive deck of Modern since it essentially came out of nowhere, to become one of if not the best deck for several months, with its presence in Top 8's still not wavering by much.

Not surprisingly, the power of the deck comes on the back of one of the most controversial cards in Modern...

Faithless Looting

I think this card has been talked about more than any other in the past year, given how much play it's seen in both Modern and in some cases Legacy, as well as how much people want this card banned (myself included). Most of the degenerate things that have happened in the past year in Modern have occurred due to this card acting as an engine to spell strategies like Izzet Phoenix, and graveyard strategies like Dredge. In Legacy, BR Reanimator became the graveyard deck of choice before 's banning, mainly due to its ability to get underneath the mana-dork before it could disrupt their combo. But even since the DRS ban, the deck has stuck around, with Faithless Looting being the key reason it splashes Red. In a format where blue gives you , , and even protection via , players have opted for a faster engine with discard via for the marquee graveyard deck, which really speaks to its power level.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Alright so this one might be a bit preemptive, since it's only been a few weeks since this bad body has been printed, but so far, I think that it's the most powerful card printed in the last year, given the deck it's currently residing in in Modern. More than the card itself, Hogaak BridgeVine embodies a very graveyard heavy meta that has come out of Modern in the past few months. To me, Hogaak is just the latest in a line of degeneracy, and it just so happens to be the one that's the most busted. I would be utterly shocked if this card, or anything around it in the deck that runs it, doesn't get banned in next week's B&R announcement.

Surgical Extraction

certainly wasn't printed within this last year, but I'd argue that it's had its best year ever, in the 8 years since it's been printed. At this time last year, it was a $20 sideboard staple. You should run a few just in case you got pitted again something graveyard heavy. This applied to Modern and Legacy, since Vintage is in regular need of more sweeping graveyard hate that doesn't cost one mana, thanks to Mental Misstep. Since then, the card has become a defining mainboard cards, much to my chagrin. It now costs $50 each, and at its peek was even more. This is due to several factors. One, is that it has only ever seen reprints in "masters" products like MM2. The Phyrexian mana symbol is nearly impossible to print in Standard, at least not until they go back to New Phyrexia. And two, Wizards announced that they were discontinuing masters products after Ultimate Masters, which did not include a reprint of .

In addition to those two availability concerns, as mentioned above, graveyard strategies took off in Modern in the past six months. became a force to be reckoned with, Dredge got some new tools, and BridgeVine has been coming and going. For , not only is it a way to beat up on your opponent in the mirror, but it also counts as a free spell to get back your own phoenix with. Fair decks like UW Control have begun running Surgical Mainboard just to deal with these fast clock graveyard decks, and sometimes even that isn't enough.

There might be some that would say that is the better graveyard hate card, even though not as flexible. While Leyline is certainly good against some of the most scary decks at the moment, like Hogaak BridgeVine, I think that 's explosion of use speaks more to the progression of Modern in the past 12 months.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

I don’t care what anyone says, the winner of the last 12 months of magic has been . Sure, it was printed before 12 months ago in the Dominaria set, but it was a somewhat lukewarm initial reception, with its full potential not coming out to play for a few weeks following its release. Once people realized how good it was, though, it has certainly stuck around. I’m Standard, people were worried about mono red’s status as a tier 0.5 deck, with and still on the prowl. Sure, those two cards and a handful of others would be rotating in the fall, but Wizards just printed . How would anything but red compete? During the summer leading up to rotation, UWx in Standard just picked up steam. As soon as Guilds of Ravnica came out, Esper Control started to take over, both in Paper Magic and in Arena. It had only gotten Dimir cards, and was set to get its other two guilds printed in the next few months. Esper Control was here to stay, and it has.

In Modern, Teferi has taken the spot in UWx Control decks as the de facto Planeswalker, beating out . Both are really good, but in the last year, even with Jace being unbanned the February prior to Teferi’s printing, decks have gone from having a single Teferi, to adding some more in conjunction with Jace, to cutting Jace altogether some times. Its far more common now to see a Control list with only Teferi, than only Jace.

In Legacy, he’s certainly uncommon, but not unplayable, occasionally seeing a spot as a singleton in UW Miracles lists that are bent on tackling a slower meta. The card is very good. With a few months left before rotation, and an all but assured non-rotating presence, you’ll certainly see more of him to come.

Notable Exclusions

There are many cards that I think had powerful showings in the past year that I still feel like did not have as large of an impact as you'd think looking back. was and still is a card that puts up big numbers in waves in Modern, however with getting banned and Graveyard strategies being a bit more competitive as a whole over the course of the entire year, I opted to include instead. And in that same vein, KCI itself, which was banned this year, I didn't think had a large enough impact across all of magic, and instead was just a more annoying impact.

What cards do you think should have been included? Anything glaring that was missed? Let me know! Until next time!

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